The Punter's De-Brief: Oosty defends and Walker wins again

Jimmy Walker with trophy number two
Jimmy Walker with trophy number two

Steve takes a look back at last week's golf action with plenty of lessons learned for the future. Read this week's De-Brief here...

“If you’re trading in-running, look for that crucial momentum preserving par save from someone on the back-nine as if the last two PGA Tour events are anything to go by, that’s the time to strike.”

With tap-in birdies on the last two holes, defending champion, Louis Oosthuizen, snatched victory from Branden Grace at the Volvo Tournament of Champions and he's now won first time out in each of the last four years. 

It took ten years and 188 starts for Jimmy Walker to win his first PGA Tour title but following his impressive finish to yesterday's Sony Open, when he birdied four of the last six holes, he's now recorded his second success in three months and just six starts. 

My Bets
The least said about my pre-event bets the better. Darren Clarke promised much for a round and a half before folding like a cheap suit and Thomas Bjorn lost every chance on day one at the Volvo and none of my outsiders ever even looked like figuring in Hawaii.

In-running picks, Branden Grace, who was matched at a low of 1.84/5, and Chris Kirk both finished second and both were beaten by a solitary stroke so I didn't disgrace myself. I didn't win anything either though. In fact, it was a disappointing week. Losses were kept to a minimum in South Africa, thanks to a lay of Grace but Walker's win was fairly costly.

What have we learned this week?
I hope the Volvo goes back to Durban next year, it's a lovely venue and now they've shaved the run-off areas around the greens, scoring is a bit tougher than it used to be. It was an entertaining enough event this year but I'd love to see it played in four days of really testing winds.

Durban definitely has a links feel about it and those that have shown a liking for the finest form of golf are well worth siding with, especially if we ever get the privilege to see it played in blustery conditions.

At the last five South African Opens held there, the third round leader has gone on to win but Oosty has won from outside the lead in each of the last two years and the course set-up may have something to do with that. Scott Jamieson lost a five-stroke lead last year and this time around, the first three on the leaderboard after round three, Tommy Fleetwood, Joost Luiten and Victor Dubuisson, all failed to break 70 in round four.

It may be worth taking on the frontrunners going forward and especially if they're not native. It was a South African one-two this year and one of the home contingency has now won all seven European Tour events held at the track. 

At the Sony Open, two trends were emphatically endorsed once again. Three of the first four home all played at Kapalua and all three finished down the field there. An out of contention pipe-opener in the Tournament of Champions is a real plus. Ten of the last 16 winners of the Sony have now enjoyed the benefit of that competitive warm-up and it's a very strong angle in.

A number of courses correlate with Waialae but none better than El Camaleon, home of the OHL Classic at Mayakoba. Two winners of that fairly new event (just seven renewals) have won the Sony already (Mark Wilson and Johnson Wagner) and it looked as though it was going to be three.

The first two home at the Mayakoba in November, Harris English and Brian Stuard, were bang in-contention here and English, looked by some distance the most likely winner at one stage. He traded at a low of 1.618/13 but after birdying the 14th, he played the last four holes in one-over-par.

Trying to gauge how a player is going to play in-the-mix is extremely difficult. I loved the way English took his time over his birdie putt on the 14th yesterday - after composing himself, he stroked it in with poise and precision and having already impressively bagged two wins in his short career, he looked highly likely to make it three but it wasn't to be.

In stark contrast to the highly impressive young English, Walker was a bag of nerves in-the-mix for years and yet all of a sudden the penny's dropped and the way he finished last night was simply superb. It's a lesson for all of us; even the worst in-contention players can get it eventually. 

The crucial point in Walker's round came at the 14th, when after a poor approach and an even worse chip, he left himself 12 feet for par. I confess, I thought it was going to signal another poor finish from Walker but far from it. He made the par save and kicked on impressively, birdying the next three holes and it was so reminiscent of the week before...

After a heavy-handed birdie attempt, Zach Johnson needed to make a par putt of some distance at the 13th at Kapalua and after he had, he too birdied the next three holes to put the event to bed. 

If you're trading in-running, look for that crucial momentum preserving par save from someone on the back-nine as if the last two PGA Tour events are anything to go by, that's the time to strike.

And finally, it's time to bang the wait till Wednesday drum again. If you fancy an outsider, at least preserve some of your stakes until Wednesday. Some of the late drifts are simply incredible.

We're off to UAE on the European Tour for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship and in the states, it's the Humana Challenge. I'll be tomorrow with a preview for each.

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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